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Peakbagging in Oz

May 20, 2015

12 May to 5 June 2014. On the way down to Australia I stopped in Singapore for a few days. Great food, not too expensive, clean, safe, and efficient. It really is a great city. While I was there I managed to summit Bukit Timah, the country highpoint of only 163.6 meters… but you can round up it to 164 which sounds much taller right? Actually, it is a pretty nice hike for what it is, despite being one of the only country highpoints that one could walk to from the metro/subway (called the MRT in Singapore). It’s easiest to take the MRT to Bukit Batok and take a bus or taxi to the trailhead though. GPS track here.

IMG_0337I also walked from Dhoby Ghaut MRT, very close to the shopping street Orchard Road, to an old fortress from World War II called Fort Canning, although only 63 meters high, it housed the British command and was the last part of Singapore to fall to the Japanese. GPS track here.

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After a couple days it gets a bit boring, and so my dad and I flew down to Melbourne with the intention of climbing the highpoint of Australia and hopefully the highpoints of Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). We arrived early in the morning and spent the day driving down the Great Ocean Road, stopping at Bell’s Beach and some other beaches along the way. In May it is Fall in Australia so the weather was perfect, but the water is a little chilly. In the evening we met some friends in Melbourne and then planned out what to do next.

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The main goal of the trip was to summit Kosciuszko, the highpoint of Australia and (arguably) the Australian continent. First we decided to do a warmup hike, and we drove to the ski resort of Mount Buller outside of Mannsfield. It was cool and cloudy, and perfect weather for hiking. GPS track here. The hike was not too steep and the views were great. We stayed in Mannsfield and decided to do another hike in the area before going to climb Bogong and Kosciuszko. It’s nice countryside, and I would think it would be great for cycling too. There are lots of pleasant towns, all with shops to pick up a meat pie or a nice meal at a pub. It is quite expensive, and most things cost double what they do in the US, including groceries and restaurant meals.

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The next day we went to Mount Buffalo, a ski area outside of Myrtleford and Bright. This peak had a massive flat top with lots of rock outcroppings. The highest of these was The Horn. There is a short trail to the summit with steps carved into the rock and a couple ladders to the highest point. A very fun peak. Afterward we hiked to the second-highest summit, The Hump. It was a pretty light day, but we had plans for Mount Bogong, highpoint of Victoria, the next day. GPS track here and here.

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We stayed the night in Bright, and it rained all night. We were worried that the weather would be too bad to hike, but we gave it a shot anyway. We drove the car on a dirt road as far as we could, and set of hiking on the trail. The trail was not well maintained, and the signage to get there was non-existant, making the ascent even worse in the rain. This was the case in most wilderness areas that we went to in Australia. It is a shame because there is so much hiking, but the outdoor recreation potential of these areas is being halted by poor management.

We trudged in the rain, not able to see more than fifty feet. I am sure on a sunny day the views would be great, so it was a disappointment to not see anything of the mountain. GPS track here. We finished the hike very late and drove through the night to Thredbo, the ski town at the base of Kosciuszko.

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We got to Thredbo at 9 pm and went to bed very quickly, very tired after a long day in the pouring rain. To climb Kosciuszko we took a chairlift that only began running at 9 am, so we didn’t have to get an early start. It didn’t rain but it was cloudy and low visibility the entire hike. Again, it would have been nice to see the views. The trail was excellent, and was on an elevated metal walkway that enabled us to make excellent time. Without it the trail would have been boggy. The trail to the summit was gradual gravel/rock to the summit. We took a few quick photos and then hid from the strong wind behind a rock. GPS track here. We were down the mountain by the early afternoon and stayed the night in Jindabyne.

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After Kosciuszko we had originally planned to hike Bimberi, the highpoint of ACT (Australian Capital Territory- Canberra). We were too tired and decided to just head to Canberra for the day instead. My dad went to ANU in the city and so we went to the campus and to the Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. It was reminiscent of Washington DC, both being planned capital cities. We also got a peak in, hiking up to the radio tower on Black Mountain outside of the ANU campus.

After leaving Canberra we drove to Cooma and stayed the night, and continued to Lake’s Entrance the next day. The two days were a nice break from hiking, but were long driving days.

From Lake’s Entrance we looked for a hike that wouldn’t put us too far off route to Melbourne. We found a peak called Mount Saint Gwinear and decided to hike it. There wasn’t a lot of information about the area, but we used a road map to find a logging road and followed it up to a hiking trail. The trailhead was quite nice with a visitor center and a trail map on a sign– just another area being mismanaged by the government. The trail was not too steep, and the peak had a flat top with great views through the trees for miles. It was our first sunny hike, and it was quite warm. GPS track here.

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From Mt St Gwinear we stayed in a small town a few hours from Melbourne, and the next morning drove into town. We got a hotel near the famous MCG and had tickets for an Aussie Rules match between the Carlton Blues and Adelaide Crows. It turned out to be one of the best matches of the year, with the Blues winning by five points in the last couple minutes.

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The next day we decided to take a daytrip to the end of Port Phillip Bay at Portsea. There’s a park at the end with a couple hills, and a nice view. We also walked to Cheviot Beach, where Australian PM Harold Holt disappeared while swimming in 1967.

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After a couple days in Melbourne we flew to Brisbane to visit our family that lives there. It had been a few years since we had seen them so it was good to catch up. My dad and I hiked Mount Coot-Tha while we were there, and I tried out cycling on the left side of the road with my uncle. Right before I left for the Czech Republic, my uncle and I went to the Gold Coast where he and my dad grew up.

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Overall, Australia was a great trip. The hiking was excellent, as was the scenery, winding country roads, small towns, country pubs and pie shops.

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